Luke 16:1-13 (NRSV)
Chapter 16Then Jesus said to the disciples, "There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property. Verse 2So he summoned him and said to him, 'What is this that I hear about you? Give me an accounting of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.' Verse 3Then the manager said to himself, 'What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. Verse 4I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.' Verse 5So, summoning his master's debtors one by one, he asked the first, 'How much do you owe my master?' Verse 6He answered, 'A hundred jugs of olive oil.' He said to him, 'Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.' Verse 7Then he asked another, 'And how much do you owe?' He replied, 'A hundred containers of wheat.' He said to him, 'Take your bill and make it eighty.' Verse 8And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. Verse 9And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes. Verse 10"Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. Verse 11If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? Verse 12And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? Verse 13No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth."
In today’s gospel reading, Jesus tells a parable, traditionally identified as the “Dishonest Manager” who actually has been accused of mishandling his employer’s business. Fearing he will be fired, he calls his employer’s debtors and “cooks the books” by decreasing the amount they owe, ostensibly reasoning that they will owe him when he’s out of a job and in need.
In telling this story Jesus is hardly affirming the steward’s dishonesty or shady business dealings. But he is praising the man’s discernment. The first point we hear is that the children of this world are often more savvy than the church, the “children of light.” This reflects another of Jesus’ wisdom sayings, “Be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). We might be tempted at times to see the world as a place that stands over against God. And sometimes it is. But the world is also a part of God’s creation, and it can have much to teach us. Using the honest business practices that the world has to offer is smart, it’s wise, it’s savvy.
O God, when appropriate, help us to listen to the wisdom of the world and incorporate it into the life of our church that we, in turn, would let our light shine where there is darkness. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.